The 11 Best Building Toys for Your Construction-Loving Kid
Raising a budding architect? Foster their love for construction by stocking up on building toys. These types of construction toys come in a variety of forms—from blocks to magnetic sets and more—but they all share the same, basic qualities. They inspire your little one to get creative and use their hands in a constructive manner during play. The best building toys for kids are durable, easy to manipulate, and fun, of course—and we’ve uncovered the top options on the market today. Find out more about the benefits below, then browse our favorite building toys, from wooden classics to STEM and Montessori-inspired options.
Building and construction toys aren’t just fun and games (though, that’s important, too!); they offer several developmental and educational benefits, as well. Building toys encourage open-ended play, whereby children are free to create and imagine on their own. Research has shown that this type of play is extremely beneficial to children and their development. “I have discovered links between open-ended, self-chosen pretend play and block building and language, social skills and early mathematical thinking,” explains Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, EdD, a writer and retired professor of early childhood education at Eastern Connecticut State University.
Trawick-Smith also revealed that, in a 10-year toy study conducted by the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University, building toys were some of the highest-rated toys for 3- and 4-year-old children. “We found that construction toys—hardwood blocks, Legos, etc.—inspired the highest quality play using a measure we developed,” Trawick-Smith shares.
Building toys also introduce kids to basic math and science principles, helping them develop their gross, fine motor and language skills, while fostering team-building, creativity and problem-solving. “Building play involves much symbolic thought—the same kind of thinking needed for language and reading,” Trawick-Smith explains. He also highlighted the connection between block play and early math skills. “Children who build more complex block structures over the course of a year show greater gains in a measure of their understanding of number, space and measurement,” he adds. Building toys are so good at providing quality play opportunities for children that Trawick-Smith encourages all families, if they can afford it, to invest in a set of wooden blocks.
While building toys are a wonderful resource for kids, it’s important that the set you buy is age-appropriate and safe. For toddlers under the age of 3, steer clear of construction toys with small pieces that can fit inside your little one’s mouth, as they could pose a choking risk.
With that in mind, here is a look at some of the top building toys for toddlers and preschoolers.
For the child that loves to build tall towers and skyscrapers, the Mega Bloks Big Building Bag is a dream come true. Their larger size makes them easier (and safer) for small hands to grip, stack and build, while the vibrant colors help their creations come alive. The building blocks connect and separate with ease for frustration-free building—and allow your child to move quickly from creation to creation. Plus, when playtime is done, this building blocks toy comes with its own zippered storage bag (pleasing parents everywhere).
Age Rating: 1 to 5 years old | Materials: Plastic | Number of Pieces: 80
- Suitable for young toddlers
- Chunky, easy-to-grip blocks
- Storage bag included
- Blocks fit together loosely
Looking for building toys that foster a healthy sense of imagination? The possibilities are endless with Magna-Tiles. This magnetic building toy set comes with a variety of geometric squares and triangles—in a rainbow of colors—to create whatever your child’s heart desires. The shapes connect and separate easily thanks to built-in magnets, making them simple to use (and a breeze to clean up). And while this classic set allows your child to build anything they can dream up, Magna-Tiles also offers themed sets—from dinosaurs to safari animals and construction —to help spark their creativity. But what truly makes Magna-Tiles one of the best building toys for kids is its wide range of appeal: This toy is suitable for ages 3 all the way up to 99.
Age Rating: 3+ years | Materials: MABS plastic | Number of Pieces: 100
- Made from food-grade, non-toxic plastic
- Crack-resistant tiles
- Certified STEAM toy
- High price point
Searching for the ultimate building block set for your little one? Look no further than this pick by Lovevery. Based on the principles of neuroscience and Montessori philosophy, this stage-based toy comes with an activity guide that’ll walk you through 20+ learning activities for children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years. The set itself includes building blocks, cylinders, figurines, wheels, planks, threadable blocks with a toggle string, a shape sorter and ramp and other assorted shapes. All of the items mentioned above are made using FSC-certified wood finished with water-based paints. And once playtime’s over everything can be tidied away inside the cotton drawstring bag and storage box.
Age Rating: 18+ months | Materials: Wood | Number of Pieces: 70
- Made from sustainably-sourced wood
- Chunky building pieces
- Activity guide for parents
- High price point
A classic wooden block with magnetic connections? That’s a building toy win-win. The Tegu Magnetic Blocks provide a modern update to classic wooden blocks, adding in magnets for better staying power and unique parts for more creative possibilities. The set includes classic rectangular blocks along with cubes, parallelograms and wheels, meaning kids can build vehicles too. Plus, the wooden materials used are eco-friendly and sustainably sourced—and the blocks are made in Tegucigalpa, Honduras (hence the name Tegu) to help provide an economic boost to the country. This is a magnetic building toy that your child will not only have hours of fun with, but you can feel good about purchasing, too.
Age Rating: 12+ months | Materials: Wood and water-based lacquers | Number of Pieces: 42
- Sustainably-sourced hardwood
- Blocks come in a range of shapes and sizes
- Magnetic pieces help keep creations together
- The paint can chip over time
- High price point
Looking to foster your child’s STEM skills? Look no further than this SmartMax Start Plus STEM Magnetic Building Set, which allows them to create structures and designs from the oversized bars and balls. Not only does this STEM toy allow your child to build—it also gives them an introduction to the science behind magnets. The cold-colored bars (blue, green and purple) only connect to the warm-colored bars (red, orange and yellow), introducing the concepts of attraction to your toddler. This combination of learning and fun makes this STEM building toy a solid pick.
Age Rating: 12+ months | Materials: N/A | Number of Pieces: 30
- Oversized pieces are easy to grip
- Building guide
- The magnets can hold up to 60 times their weight
- The kit doesn’t come with a lot of pieces
For the child that prefers gardening and the outdoors, we’ve got just the building toy for you. This flower building toy from ToyVelt allows your little one to create their own garden while simultaneously learning about different types of flowers. But the educational opportunities don’t stop there. Kids can practice their colors by naming the different hues of flowers, improve their fine motor skills by building their garden and develop spatial awareness through planning out their designs.
Age Rating: 3+ years old | Materials: Plastic | Number of Pieces: 148
- Storage box for easy clean-up
- BPA-free pieces
- Colorful design
- The connection of some of the pieces can be loose
It’s hard to go wrong with a set of classic wooden building blocks, like this pick by Melissa & Doug. The set comes with 60 blocks in a variety of shapes and sizes, all made from solid wood, for endless building opportunities. But this wooden building toy also helps to introduce early math concepts, like sorting, shapes and basic fractions. Your little one will be able to fine-tune their hand-eye coordination and practice their patience when their creation inevitably gets knocked down. They’re a classic for a reason, and your children will love these wooden blocks for years to come.
Age Rating: 3 to 8 years old | Materials: Wood | Number of Pieces: 60
- Storage crate included
- Solid wood pieces have smooth edges
- Durable and built to last
- They are heavy
Marbles are typically a no-no for toddlers, as the tiny round balls are a potential choking hazard. But the Fat Brain Toys Roll and Bounce Tower allows little ones to experience the thrill of a marble run toy—without the danger that traditional marbles pose. This toddler toy uses oversized balls for safety, so your child can focus on building the tower and watching the balls roll and bounce through the various twists, turns and tunnels. Fun for kids without the worry for adults? That’s a win-win in the play department.
Age Rating: 12+ months | Materials: Plastic | Number of Pieces: 30
- Oversized balls for safety
- Built-in trampoline
- Toy teaches cause-and-effect and improves hand-eye coordination
- There is only one way to assemble the marble run
Unleash your child’s inner builder with these life-size foam building blocks from Playlearn. Kids can create everything from forts to skyscrapers with this brick set—and if their creation collapses, the soft foam material prevents any boo-boos. These building bricks are safe enough for younger toddlers to play with, but entertaining enough to captivate older children as well.
Age Rating: 3+ months | Materials: Foam | Number of Pieces: 25
- Soft, lightweight foam pieces
- Design mimics real bricks
- Storage bag included
- Oversized toy takes up space
Let your little one’s imagination run wild with this classic creative building toy. K’NEX Tinkertoys have been around for decades (this set even features a retro tin for storage purposes), and it’s easy to see why. Children can use the various sticks, gears and other pieces to create whatever their heart desires. If they get stuck for ideas, this set comes with a guide that features 15 different models to build. Endless hours of high-quality play and creativity are in your future if you add these Tinkertoys into the mix. Bonus: Tinkertoys received a seal of approval from Trawick-Smith, as well.
Age Rating: 3+ years | Materials: Plastic | Number of Pieces: 100
- Retro-inspired storage tin
- Idea sheet with 15 different models
- Open-ended building toy
- The pieces are plastic, not wooden
Montessori toys are typically made of natural materials, have realistic features and encourage children to explore and discover independently. And the Montessori Woodwerks Nature Blocks check all of the above boxes. Made from solid wood, the individual pieces resemble rocks in nature thanks to their unique angles and shapes. These elements also allow children to experiment with weight and balance, enlist their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and—best of all—let their creativity shine. These nature blocks aren’t just a great Montessori building toy; they’re one of the best building toys for kids period.
Age Rating: 3+ years | Materials: Wood | Number of Pieces: 75
- Made from solid wood
- Chunky design is easy for little hands to grab
- Angular shapes make for a unique building experience
- High price point
To help you find the best building toys for your child, we did extensive research to identify the best-selling, highest-quality and all-around top-notch options out there. To do this we combed through user reviews, leveraged our familiarity with leading toy brands and relied on our own experiences as parents of little ones. We looked at factors such as materials (seeking out durable choices for longevity), safety (avoiding small pieces for choking hazards), design (focusing on building toys that promoted open-ended play) and cost to find high-quality building toys for kids that won’t only stand the test of time, but will also appeal to your creative child.
Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.
Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, EdD, is a former professor at the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) at Eastern Connecticut State University. He has conducted extensive research on the importance of play, authoring and editing more than 50 books and articles related to young children’s play, culture and teacher-child classroom interactions. Though currently retired, he continues to conduct research, provide consultation on CECE studies and mentor student researchers.
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